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Signal To Noise

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Fog machines and strobes, lasers and lights: This stuff was tired when Blue Oyster Cult did it. But that didn't stop Secret Machines from landing their pulsating mothership at Mr. Small's on Sunday. Those able to tear themselves from the Steelers game were treated to nearly two hours of the Machines' psychedelic thunder and lightning, unleashed from a circular stage in the middle of the room. No rails, no guards -- just drummer Josh Garza hammering that unvarying beat three feet from you. The whole contraption looked very expensive, and it's all time-worn Spinal Tap stuff. But the show seemed perfectly calculated to make life-long converts of every audience member, and to coax away some musical cynicism. As they sang that night, "just waking up / to all the joys that you've outgrown ..."

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Equally jaw-dropping, but nerdier, Matmos' show at the Warhol came with its own share of bells and whistles: vaguely disturbing videos, a percussion ensemble, electronic screeches, roses and bloodshed. While crushing a soda can into a microphone, the professorial Martin C. Schmidt sliced a digit. (It's tempting fate to make all those songs about surgery.) Openers So Percussion put me to sleep, along with some others, but added a lot to Matmos when they joined the headliners onstage.

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Veruca Salt's show at the Rex last week was what you'd expect from alterna-stateswoman Louise Post and company: '90s radio hits plus tunes from the new, classic-rock influenced Veruca Salt IV. Fun time, hardly anyone there. Guitarist Stephen Fitzpatrick, who recently relocated from the 'Burgh to L.A. for the band's latest wind, gave me a tour of the band's bus, stocked mainly with potato chips and Grey Goose. At Dee's after the show, drummer Kellii Scott regaled us with war stories of playing in Failure and -- I kid you not -- as a hired gun in Vanilla Ice's metal band.

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Aliquippa-based rap group LifeLight just got back from playing the Roxy Theater in West Hollywood, part of a nationwide battle of the bands hosted by the Bodog record label. As of this writing, LifeLight could squeak into the next round based on Internet voting. A million-dollar contract's on the line, so it's hardly surprising that 7,034 bands are after it. Like those odds? Well, here's the funny part: Bodog Music is part of www.bodog.com, "offering online sports betting, Las Vegas style online casino games and online poker with great betting odds, fantastic customer service and fast payouts." Who thinks this stuff up?

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